The High Court has ruled Defence personnel may be prosecuted under the Defence Force Discipline Act – DFDA – for civilian criminal offences despite the offences occurring off-duty, out of uniform or off-base.
The ruling, on 9 September 2020, followed a Defence member being charged in relation to a violent assault occasioning actual bodily harm against another Defence member at/following a private party in Brisbane.
The plaintiff was and is a member of the ADF in the Australian Regular Army, while the complainant was, at the time of the alleged assault, a member of the ADF in the Royal Australian Air Force.
Neither was on duty or in uniform [or on Commonwealth land] at the time of the alleged offending.
The alleged offender launched a High Court challenge to the Defence Force Magistrate’s jurisdiction to try the charge.
A majority of the High Court ruled Defence members may, in all circumstances, be prosecuted with civilian criminal offences through the DFDA.
The High Court challenge was dismissed with costs awarded against the plaintiff.
Full details of the case can be found here.
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